- Project Description
The goals of the pilot project were to get a better understanding from second-generation Salvadorian-Americans of the concerns and needs of their community and to help increase the resilience of this group by raising confidence, developing personal relationships, and cultivating a sense of shared identity and community.
To identify the specific needs of the Salvadorian-American community, we first sought to understand how identity is constructed by them. Specifically, we were looking for indicators of the kinds of challenges they faced; for example, how the traumas experienced by the immigrant generation may have affected the lives of subsequent generations, how institutions like schools supported the development of young people, and what hopes and aspirations the Salvadorian diaspora has for the community.
Our hope was by the conclusion of the pilot project these discussions would:
- Help to develop and grow a clearer sense of Salvadorian-American identity by creating an opportunity for participants to discuss their experiences.
- Lead to an understanding of common challenges faced by participants.
- Result in a preliminary exploration and evaluation of ways one might attempt to address these challenges; and
- Inspire and cultivate a shared sense of heritage to help uplift and raise the confidence of Salvadorian-American individuals and communities.
From March 24 to May 19, 2021, a group of Salvadorian-Americans participated in eight 1.5-hour sessions. Meetings were held from 6 to 8 PM on Wednesdays.
The weekly topic and corresponding discussion were determined session-by-session. The first meeting was largely introductory but did culminate in initial discussion about the goals of the pilot project. Participants were encouraged to view themselves as thought partners and to provide continuous feedback on the content and direction of the discussion. Consensus was sought regarding more practical aspects of the project, such as scheduling. At the close of the project, participants committed to future active participation in subsequent phases of the project.
Project manager and a member of the Salvadorian-American community in the metropolitan Washington, DC area, IWA Program Associate Adrienne Castellón recruited participants for the discussion group. Although the project was initially intended to be in-person, due to constraints imposed by COVID-19, it was conducted remotely. Meetings were held via Zoom. Participants consented to being recorded with the understanding that the recordings would be confidential, internal, and eventually deleted. The challenge of managing multiple voices virtually led to a reduction in the originally intended “in-person” size of the group from 8 participants to 4 participants. This fostered greater intimacy and had a positive impact on group dynamics.
We recognize that this small discussion group cannot be considered a truly representative sample of the Salvadorian-American community. Participants who have strong ties to community work and community activism were intentionally recruited to gain a deeper understanding of grassroots level needs. The project manager also made every effort to achieve demographic balance. Two participants were male, and two were female. Two belonged to a second generation (born in the United States to immigrant parents), and two to the “1.5 generation” (born in El Salvador and migrated to the United States as children). All of the participants were college educated, and most of them worked with youth in some capacity. Dialogue participants included a social worker/therapist, a law student, and two who work with at-risk youth – one with young fathers, the other with Latinx youth in Workforce GED Development & Instruction.
Participation was contingent on a commitment to confidentiality and to attendance at all sessions. While IWA personnel served as facilitators, with predetermined questions and prompts to generate discussion, the approach was deliberately designed to include open-ended questions that allowed organic and collaborative exploration. Baseline, midpoint, and final evaluations were conducted to chart the development of the project. The discussions were held almost entirely in English.